Editors Note: Since I’ve been lax in my blogging duties during the holidays in order to spend time with family and friends. Our friends and contributor Raider Ute has decided to enter into the foray with a discussion of his other passion, the Oakland Raiders. Now our intrepid young man has stuck by the Raiders through thin and thinner, so enjoy his commentary. I may be back tomorrow if I can get off my ass.
Since I’m in sort of a giving mood this week, I thought of the most recent crapfest I endured this past Sunday at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. It’s December once again, we’re playing for absolutely nothing once again, and now I have to watch as Carson Palmer basically gets speared and ends up in the hospital. But, the funny thing is, I’ve seen this all before in one form or another. Let’s go back and re-live the painful step by step cataclysm that has become my Oakland Raiders. Here we go in chronological order:
January 25, 2003–Starting center Barret Robbins disappears from the team hotel room the night before Super Bowl XXXVII. He’s reported missing after he didn’t take his medication which he took for bipolar disorder. Rumors have been floating around the interwebs for years that what sent him over the edge was the fact that Robbins’ wife was cheating on him with RB Terry Kirby and Barret caught him in the act. There’s something unsettling to me about the fact that this all could have been prevented if a scrub like Kirby would have simply kept it in his drawers. Let this be a lesson to you kids: bro’s before ho’s.
January 26, 2003–Raiders lose in a rout to Jon Gruden and the Tony Dungy team he inherited. Maybe it’s my own form of optimism that I should chuck to the curb, but I really thought that the Eagles were a team we could have beaten. They didn’t scare me quite the way that Tampa did, but a Philly fan argument is not how I choose to spread Christmas cheer. Or it could be it might not have mattered, because of how much beating the Titans the week before in the AFC Championship Game took out of a veteran team like this one?
(And for those who seem to think that we would have gotten there with Gruden that year, I sort of doubt it. Gruden often got Schottenheimer’s Disease where he would get a lead of one score or less and then try to sit on it. He, like Marty, often played not to lose which in the playoffs hurts you more than it helps. When I see other fans, Raider fan or not, pine for Gruden I just have to remind them of the fact that his actual accomplishments were overshadowed by the fact he looked good on television. That and he better thank both us and Dungy for the fact he has a Super Bowl ring in the first place.)
April 26, 2003–The Raiders get two first round draft picks, one is a local kid in CB Nnamdi Asomugha from Cal. Tagliabue butchers the pronunciation of his name to the surprise of almost no one. The other pick from Tampa in the “Gruden Trade” was Tyler Brayton, a defensive end out of CU. Nnamdi would become the Raiders version of what Monta Ellis was with the Warriors: a very talented player that had a finite amount of ways he could really, truly, help the team. Brayton was decent by our recent draft standards, but he’s now out of the league. Incidentally, Carson Palmer is selected #1 overall by the Bengals.
October 12, 2003–It’s on to Cleveland, where Rich Gannon begins to meet his eventual demise for this season. Going into this game at 2-3, the Silver and Black need this win to keep some sort of hold on the season. It was here where Gannon would throw for a meager 165 yards and a TD in the midst of a 13-7 loss at the hands of the Browns.
October 20, 2003–Raiders v. Chiefs at the Coliseum on Monday night. Crowd is amped–at this point I’m going to guess narcotics are playing a role in that–KC is unbeaten and the classic old school AFL grudge match ensues. Here is where Gannon meets the end of his 2003 campaign with a shoulder injury. Enter stage right, Marques Tuiasosospo. The guy who was supposed to be this week’s next great Raider QB doesn’t do half bad and he nearly leads a game tying drive only to leave Tim Brown about 2 yards short of the goal line as time runs out. 3rd loss in a row, putting us at 2-5 on the season.
November 30, 2003–A home loss to Denver prompts Coach Callahan to go off on his now infamous “we’ve got to be the dumbest team in America” rant. Now, you wiseacres out there still insist that anyone that has ever been associated with this franchise got drool on their SAT. Fine, whatever. I expected some of you to have a little more comedic creativity, but whatever makes you feel all warm and gooey inside. Anyway, this is the most clear indicator that Callahan has lost the team. It has happened to practically every other Raider head coach after Tom Flores left, and Callahan is about to fall on the same sword. Besides, Bill was not exactly a great leader of men. In the annals of football tacticians, Callahan is probably more Vidkun Quisling than Winston Churchill.
December 28, 2003–Callahan coaches his final game with the Raiders, a 21-14 loss to San Diego to finish the season at 4-12. My ultimate conclusion here lies in the fact that some coaches are simply great coordinators and not great head coaches. Bill Callahan falls into both categories.
January 2004–After a little bit of “oh, who would be willing to work with Al anymore” kind of speculation, the white smoke appears from 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway and we hear the name of…Norv Turner. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. Did anyone not see what a mediocre steaming pile the Redskins were for the better part of a decade? I saw it, you saw it, we all saw it. What’s going on around here??
April 24, 2004–Raiders are the #2 pick in the draft, whereby Al selects OL Robert Gallery from Iowa. Oh, sure, Larry Fitzgerald or Roy Williams or Jonathan Vilma or Ben Roethlisberger or Vince Wilfork or even the late Sean Taylor would have been better football players, but we needed help on the offensive line and in particular at tackle. At the time it wasn’t a bad pick per se. I mean, bad would be us signing Kerry Collins as a free agent to be a potential back up to Rich Gannon and this week’s heir apparent at quart—oh, wait.
(As a sidenote, not a single player drafted by us in the 2004 draft is still in the league today. Think about that.).
September 12, 2004–Season begins at Heinz Field against the Steelers. Despite speculation that Collins would start this game, Gannon gets the nod. Some, however, are lead to believe that after Gannon turned the ball over three times (once by fumble, two more by INT) in a 24-21 defeat, that it was Kerry’s turn. It was somewhat reminiscent of people clamoring for Marc Wilson to replace the “washed up” Jim Plunkett.
September 26, 2004–The most Pyrrhic victory in Raiders history occurs on this night. In a bit of “revenge” from the Super Bowl of two years before, the Raiders beat the Bucs 30-20. But what was lost on this night was the services of Rich Gannon, after a neck injury at the hands of Bucs LB Derrick Brooks. So whether we liked it or not–and I certainly didn’t–we were about to usher in the Kerry Collins era.
October 10, 2004–What better way to cement your mark in the illustrious history of a franchise than to throw for 245 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs in a beatdown in Indianapolis to the Colts? By comparison, his predecessor went into the RCA Dome almost four years to the day and racked up 31 unanswered points in a 38-31 victory against a very young Colts squad. Just thought I would point that out.
November 28, 2004–Sunday night in Denver when there’s at least 3 inches of snow on the ground. Something bad was about to happen, and I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but it didn’t start out that well when Rod Smith caught an 85 yard touchdown pass to put Denver up 10-0. (Full disclosure: I had Rod Smith on my fantasy team that year, and I’m pretty sure that his TD in that game might have gotten me a #1 seed in my fantasy playoffs, as it was enough to put me over the top.) With things still in doubt, Collins does what most of us expected and throws a pick six to put Denver up 24-13 in the 4th. Miraculously (and that is not a term I use lightly), the Raiders come back with two TDs to lead by a single point. Denver has the ball and drives to within field goal range with Jason Elam lining up for a potential game winning field goal. As the ball is snapped, Elam kicks it…and it’s blocked!!! Reserve OL Langston Walker put his mitts on it!! Raiders win!! I ran outside into a large snow drift and did a snow angel while pouring some cheap whiskey all over my body. Maybe you had to be there?
As it turned out, this would be the only division game Norv would win as a Raiders head coach.
Stay tuned for Part II…